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Silesian Parishes: Sacred Heart / White Deer

White Deer

History

Anton Urbanczyk had been four years old when his family emigrated from Silesia to Panna Maria in 1854. Many years later, after his wife Mary died during a miscarriage, Urbanczyk decided to move west with his five children. The Urbanczyks settled in the Rolling Plains region in Knox County, north of Abilene, where German Catholics had established the town of Rhineland in 1895. In 1909, three young men from Panna Maria, John Krol, Mat Labus, and Henry Czerner, visited Urbanczyk. Rather than return home right away, they took jobs in the area. Krol and Labus both harvested wheat, while Czerner helped in the construction of the county courthouse. Ultimately, Czerner saw an advertisement from the White Deer Land Company, formerly the Francklyn Land and Cattle Company, a British-owned consortium associated with the famous Cunard Steamship Line. In 1882, Francklyn began grazing cattle on its vast properties in Carson County, and also leased its rangeland to other ranchers. During spring and summer, the cattle was driven up the trail from Texas to Midwestern stockyards and rail hubs. Around that same time, another company bought land in the panhandle, preparing the right-of-way for the Southern Kansas Railway of Texas. They built a depot in 1888. A post office was established, as well. The site was initially called Paton, but there was already a Paton post office in Texas, so the site was named Whig (apparently a nod to Francklyn’s British roots). A few weeks later, in January 1889, the area was renamed White Deer (after the nearby White Deer Creek). The coming of the railroad signaled the end of the era of the great cattle drives—the last one in the region was organized in 1892. Francklyn fell into receivership, and was reorganized as the White Deer Land Company. The company subdivided its more than one-half-million acres of rangeland, and offered the smaller plots for sale as individual farms and ranches. Czerner and Urbanczyk inspected the land for sale, and concluded that White Deer would be a good place for a new Silesian settlement.
By the end of 1909, Cerzner had moved his family to the Panhandle, and other intrepid souls from the older Polish settlements in Central Texas were preparing to follow him on the trek west. Silesian families came from Kosciusko, Cestochowa, Stockdale, and other towns (later, non-Silesian Poles arrived from as far away as California, Nebraska, Wisconsin, and Washington). When they first reached White Deer, they found a treeless landscape, with few fences, roads, or buildings, except Urbanczyk’s new granary. There were approximately fifty people living in White Deer by 1910, and, like their forebears had done fifty years earlier in Panna Maria, they soon created their own community. On May 13, 1913, the settlers completed the Sacred Heart Catholic Church, a simple wooden structure painted grey and trimmed in white (this cost some $4000 to build). Father C.J. Bier offered the first Mass on May 30, the Feast of the Sacred Heart. The discovery of oil and gas in Carson County in 1919 contributed to White Deer’s growth. The town was incorporated in 1921, and it had an estimated population of 200 in 1925. By the end of the decade, at the peak of the oil boom, White Deer was home to approximately 3000 people. The boom ended just as the Great Depression began. For the last several decades, the population has remained near 1000 people.

Parish News

Parish updates, tour and location information will be located in this area.

Then and Now

Opportunities for photo scanning sessions and oral histories sharing will be posted in this area.

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